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Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well Being at Work

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Improving employee productivity is part of the goal of every business, small and large. The biggest problem in improving productivity, however, may rest with the boss.

An article from The Atlantic explained:

The psychological climate in which you work has a lot to do with your health and happiness. Recent research has found, perhaps not surprisingly, that bad bosses can affect how your whole family relates to one another. They can also affect your physical health, raising your risk for heart disease.

Now, new research illustrates how bad bosses can shoot themselves in the foot, hindering their employees’ morale, rather than helping it.

Over 1,100 employees at companies of all sizes were questioned about their work environments and their overall well-being. Some questions aimed at gauging the level of involvement the participants felt and at determining their bosses’ management styles. Participants rated statements like “my supervisor consults with me to find out what modifications I would like to make to my work” and “my supervisor tries to motivate me by making me feel guilty for not doing enough.” Some statements, such as “the organization shows very little concern for me,” measured the support the participants felt their companies provided.

The more negative the bosses’ management style, the less happy the workers — not a surprising finding. When bosses were controlling rather than encouraging, employee well-being was low. On the other hand, when employees felt that their autonomy was encouraged (for example, when bosses gave a “meaningful rationale for doing the tasks” and made employees feel they were being asked to contribute rather than commanded to do something), they also had better overall well-being.

The psychological climate of the organization itself also affected participants’ happiness: The more supportive the company, the happier the employee.

consulting on bad bosses

© Flickr user HAROLDO FERRARY-HAROLDO FERRARI-HAROLDO COSTA FERR

However, if you really want to understand the relationship between employee productivity, retention of employees, employee satisfaction, and the behavior of supervisors, you have to dig into the study. Unfortunately, the journalist doesn’t mention what may be the most important two terms in the entire field of organizational psychology right now: hedonic and eudaiomonic well-being.

Stay with us for a moment. Here’s what scientists mean by these words:

  • Hedonic well-being (think “hedonism”) is the sense of pleasure you get from the external world. For example: eating a tasty meal, watching your favorite team win, or watching a favorite movie.
  • Eudaimonic well-being (think “euphoria”) is the sense of satisfaction you get from acting with intention. Eudaimonia is a Greek word that refers to the pleasure from genuine engagement and meaning. It’s what you get from being absorbed and fascinated with the challenge of whatever you’re doing.

Now, back to bad bosses. When supervisors micromanage the productivity growth of their employees (instead of focusing on employee productivity and freedom) they destroy any hope of  having a sense of purpose at work.

And as you might imagine, this is much worse for employee productivity than just simple displeasure. If the office is uncomfortable or customers are behaving badly, you can bite your tongue without too much effort. But if your boss doesn’t believe in you, what reason do you have to believe in yourself? You certainly won’t feel as engaged as you would be if the company was investing in you and working for your well-being at the same level they expect you to be working for theirs.

Keep an eye on office morale and destructive personalities. They may be the biggest cause of employee productivity issues, ever.

For more information on how to apply these principles in your organization, contact the business improvement team at AccelaWork today!

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